The coastal towns in Marina Alta are sunny all year around and are home to many exotic plants and greenery.
The northernmost district in Alicante province is called Marina Alta, which literally means “high coastal area,” as opposed to Marina Baixa or low coastal area.
The latter is famous for being home to Benidorm, a major Mediterranean tourist resort which is second only to Manhattan in terms of skyscrapers per square meter. This means that Marina Alta is forced to compete for tourists, who are the backbone of the economy in much of this region.
Denia, considered the capital of Marina Alta with a registered population of around 32,000, is said to have been founded by the Greeks and named after the hunting goddess Diana, but there is little written proof of it.
The town’s history can be researched at the castle, which houses a modest museum with information about local rulers, from the Moors to the Bourbons. In any case, the views from the castle are worth the climb.
Like most other coastal towns, Denia grew with its back to the sea, which may sound odd these days but made a lot of sense in an era when the coast was infested with pirates.
In fact, city walls used to protect residents from marauders, and the Ethnological Museum, housed in a well-to-do period house near the church, proves that Denia’s wealth, as that of nearby towns, did not come from fishing, but from the raisin trade.
A community of English raisin traders lived here in the 19th century and up until the Civil War, but the industry died out after that, and all that is left are a few rundown riuraus, arched buildings where raisin production took place.
The riuraus, which are scattered across the area, have become the symbol of Marina Alta’s popular architecture.
Separating Denia from Jávea (or Xábia in the Valencian language) is the Montgó, a rounded mountain that locals compare to a turtle shell and which was saved from Spain’s recent construction frenzy when it was declared a natural park.
Instead, the construction work is taking place in Jávea, whose authorities are revamping the city centre with EU funds.
Although the 10-kilometre drive along a winding road will be a challenge for those who get easily carsick, Jávea is worth a visit because the historical part of town contains some striking homes that bear witness to the success of the raisin trade, while the church of San Bartolomé also served as a fort when the pirates came to town.
One of the most beautiful buildings in Jávea is the food market, which looks Gothic even though it was built in 1946.
The lower neighbourhood of Aduanas del Mar, with its curious-looking church of Loreto and fishing port – where fish is still sold daily – is the gateway to Jávea’s 10 beaches, which range from pebbly areas such as La Grava to fine yellow sand in Arenal.